Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil-Victoria Christopher Murray

The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil
Victoria Christopher Murray
Touchstone, Jun 7 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439194256

As she nears her fiftieth birthday, wealthy Shay-Shaunte knows what she wants as her special present. Until Shay-Shaunte offers one of her executive assistant, Evia Langston five million dollars for a weekend with the latter’s husband Adam. Stunned Evia says no thanks.

However, Evia knows her family could use the money as they are nearing financial ruin with the economy tanking. She also knows that when she and Adam exchanged vows in front of the Lord when they were seventeen, they pledged a faith based relationship to raise their kids in. Now Evia and Adam must choose between the she-devil serpent’s glittering offering to save the Langston’s Garden of Eden or trusting in God to take care of them and their children.

The immediate reaction is The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil is a gender bending version of Redford’s Indecent Proposal to Moore and Harrelson; but that is only at the surface. Instead this is a much deeper profound character driven tale as besides breaking one’s ethics for easy money and the example that sets for their children as well as destroying the trust between Evia and Adam. There is also an underlying religious issue throughout the engaging story line that will stun readers with a shocking twist at the final confrontation. Victoria Christopher Murray provides readers with a strong inspirational family drama as free will allows the Langston duo to choose between the devil’s easy money and the Lord’s pious path.

Harriet Klausner

The Delta Solution-Patrick Robinson

The Delta Solution
Patrick Robinson
Perseus/Vanguard, May 3 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9781593156473

Mohammed "the Godfather of the Dark Continent" Salat provides the funding and orders to the Somali Marines. This group of pirates is extremely well trained and equipped to achieve their mission of capturing tankers and cargo ships off the Somali coast.

Salat sends his brigands to capture the American freighter Niagara Falls whose $100 million dollar cargo belongs to the United States Agency for Internationals Development. Refusing to pay the $10 million dollar ransom demands, the American government assigns Commander Mackenzie "Mack" Bedford to lead a newly activated SEALs team Delta Platoon. Their current mission is to mount sea rescues and end the Somali Marines’ piracy by assaulting their headquarters in Haradheere, Somalia.

The keys to this timely engaging thriller are that the SEALs receive focused training and the Somali Marines are a very capable organized unit. Once the cast is set and the team ready to invade, The Delta Solution goes into hyperspeed as Mack and his elite team assault the impenetrable base of the Somali marines knowing the likelihood that many SEALs will not come home even in body bags and the collateral damage is a certainty. Less action than Mack’s previous adventures (see Intercept and Diamondhead), The Delta Solution is a more complete thriller as the audience observes two highly trained and effective units prepare for a showdown in the Indian Ocean.

Harriet Klausner

The Phoenix Apostles-Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore

The Phoenix Apostles
Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore
Midnight Ink, Jun 8 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9780738726663

In 2012 at The Reliquary in Mexico City, as he studies the video feed of the tomb University of Miami archaeologist Mesoamerican Professor Daniel Bernal tells his fiancée Planet Discovery magazine writer Seneca Hunt something is wrong about what they have found as Montezuma’s remains are missing. However, his muses are interrupted with an explosion. All at the excavation are dead except Seneca.

Mexican official believe a terrorist attack occurred, but a grieving angry Seneca believes there is more to it. She begins a hunt for the killers of her beloved starting with Carolos the technician assistant who left just before the blast. Seneca learns that other ancient tombs around the world are being invaded, but whereas the remains of history’s murderous infamy are taken other valuable artifacts are left behind. When she meets author Matt Everhart who is also following the story, they team up on a trail that leads back two millennia ago in Judea with a modern day scheme that will annihilate millions.

Although Cotton Stone takes a respite, the same frantic pace, starting with the deadly explosion, and never slowing down grips the audience with the first Seneca Hunter thriller with historical and religious underpinnings. Seneca is a wonderful fully developed lead character who holds the fast-paced exciting story line together. With a cautionary underlying message of keep the faith as science and technology are important but need ethical boundaries, fans will relish Seneca’s Hunt for the truth.

Harriet Klausner

A Time for Patriots-Dale Brown

A Time for Patriots
Dale Brown
Morrow, May 10 2011, $26.99
ISBN: 9780061989995

The financial industry collapses taking down the stock markets with it. The American economy is in free-fall. Newly elected President Phoenix and the Congress radically slash the federal government spending and reduce tax rates to their lowest in decades as they heed what happened to those in the last TARP intervention; safety networks are slashed with the massive reductions. Three types of groups emerge: local vigilante protecting small pockets of people loosely aligned with The Civil Air patrol; murderous terrorist cells; and stragglers with no camp available.

The Knights of the True Republic ambush an FBI unit protecting radioactive substances. They kill the agents and steal the dangerous material planning to launch a dirty bomb on the federal building in Reno. The Civil Air Patrol’s Nevada Wing led by retired Air Force Lieutenant-General Patrick McLanahan hunt the Knights hoping to prevent the destruction of Reno.

Fans will welcome the exciting return of not by the book McLanahan (see Executive Intent) though he plays the same shallow character he has been in the numerous tales when he was active duty and retired. This time he is accompanied by his equally underdeveloped teenage son who joins him in doing it the McLanahan way or no way as this pair is caffeine coffee drinking Cessna pilots. Extremely fast-paced with a powerful premise of what the impact of sudden massive cuts in spending and revenues mean, readers will enjoy father and son as they team up to try to save Nevada from the terrorist Knights.

Harriet Klausner

The Jefferson Key-Steve Berry

The Jefferson Key
Steve Berry
Ballantine, May 17 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345505514

Stephanie Nelle leaves a mysterious message for former Justice Department field operative Cotton Malone to meet her in New York immediately. Not one to ignore a summons from his former boss, Malone and his beloved Cassiopeia Vitt shut down their Copenhagen book store to fly to the States.

In Manhattan, Malone observes an assassination attempt on President Danny Daniels, but intercedes this saving the life of POTUS. However, the Secret Service assumes he is the assassin and attacks him. He soon finds himself in further danger from the Commonwealth Society who has enforced Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution several times with four of them successful in 1865, 1881, 1901 and 1963. Malone learns of a Jeffersonian cipher deployed by Jackson after a failed assault but unused since. Meanwhile he and Vitt struggle to survive as Commonwealth Quartermaster Clifford Knox stalks them. The fugitive pair finds historical evidence of the intent of the Founding Fathers in ratifying that particular clause as the runaways are considered the traitors and the Commonwealth has the highest law in the land behind them.

This is a brilliant exhilarating thriller that uses the Constitution and American history to frame a great tale that will have readers hooked throughout. After spending time overseas (see The Paris Vendetta and The Emperor's Tomb), Malone comes home only to be caught in the crosshairs of a secret powerful group applying Article 1 Section 8: “The Congress shall have the Power to … grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules on concerning Captures on Land and Water”. Filled with stunning spins to American history, fast-paced from the opening 1835 Jackson assassination attempt to the final denouement, The Jefferson Key will be on the short list for best thriller of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Exile-Anne Osterlund

Anne Osterlund
Speak, Apr 28 2011, $8.99
ISBN: 9781101514153

Princess Aurelia travels the Kingdom of Tyralt to meet people and to get away from her murderous ambitious stepsister and her father the monarch who could not care which royal daughter lived or died as long as one of them remained his heir. Her friend Robert, who loves Aurelia, and select guards join her on her trek.

She wished she could just go about as a commoner, but understands her position prevents her from doing so. When an assassin tries to kill her, Aurelia learns you sometimes get what you wish for. She and Robert flee for their lives wearing the disguise of a common couple. When they encounter bandits, Aurelia meets her mother who is protected by the band. She is offered a chance to remain with her mom hidden from her father’s world or continue her journey.

The sequel to Aurelia is a terrific high school age thriller as the heroine seeks to get away from her deadly home and meet her subjects. Robert is her most loyal follower as danger is everywhere from paid assassins to outlaws. The encounter between mother and daughter is incredible passionate; however the heroine’s inner moral compass will determine what she will do as she has a strong ethical value system (must be maternal DNA).

Harriet Klausner

Blood Law-Karin Tabke

Blood Law
Karin Tabke
Heat, May 3 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425240922

Brothers Lucien and Rafael were ten years old when the Fenrir Slayers led by Thomas Corbett attacked the Vulkasin Lycan pack killing many including the twin’s parents and kidnapped Layla the medicine woman. Thomas is enthralled by his captive.

Years later, the siblings rule their Lycan pack but Lucien has found his chosen mate; Rafael, retuning after a year away, knows she is the enemy Slayer infiltrating their clan. Lucien kills her leading to a schism between the brothers who through the Gods share one body with one dominating the day and the other the night until the Blood Law of a mate for a mate is avenged.

In Sacramento Rafael saves a human female from Viktor the rogue Slayer. He wants to know why a Slayer would assault a human so he tries to learn the truth even as he heals Falon Corbett the orphan who Rafael soon marks her as his mate.

Blood Law is a super urban fantasy with a deep Lycanthropic background interwoven into the exciting story of rival siblings at war with one another. Readers will feel Lucien’s rage and frustration towards his brother while Rafael struggles with his own feelings. With a great climatic twist, sub-genre fans will relish the Tabke universe as Lycan struggle to survive in a world in which the Slayers stalk them.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 29, 2011

Fairer than Morning-Rosslyn Elliot

Fairer than Morning
Rosslyn Elliot
Thomas Nelson, Apr 13 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9781595547859

In 1823 in Rushville, Ohio, nineteen years old Eli Bowen proposes to fifteen years old Ann Miller without talking to her father, but she says no as she feels she is too young to marry him now. He is angry accusing her of deceit while she thought he was her selected future spouse when she turned eighteen. However Ann talks to her father a minister who says her late mom would want her to wait. Ann is angry with her dad who she feels directs her to wait in order for her to raise her two younger sisters (Susan and Mabel).

At the same time in Pittsburgh, teenage orphan Will Hanby becomes an indentured servant for five years to saddlemaker Master Good. He soon learns his boss is abusive.

In 1826 while Eli is seeing another woman, Minister Miller accompanied by his three daughters travel to Pittsburgh on business. There Ann and Will meet. She brings light and intelligence to his dark life. When the Millers return to Rushville, an energized Will take a stand when Good orders him to commit perjury in court. Instead after a beating he flees for West Virginia and prays for salvation, promising to help escaped slaves and wanting to head to Ohio to be with the woman he loves and prays she has moved passed her first heart entanglement while a raging Good pursues him.

This is a powerful historical fiction using real persona (the Miller family, Will and Good). The cast is super as they bring alive the Ohio Valley in the misnomer Era of Good Feelings. Fans will relish the Saddler’s Legacy as Rosslyn Elliot provides a profound early Americana thriller.

Harriet Klausner

What Happened To Goodbye-Sarah Dessen

What Happened To Goodbye
Sarah Dessen
Viking, May 10 2011, $19.99
ISBN: 9780670012947

Over two years ago in Tyler, Mclean Sweet’s parents divorced in an angry public war. She stayed with her restaurant consultant dad though she worshipped her mother before the split while her mom began a new family. Mclean no longer speaks to her mom. Instead since the schism, she and her father have moved four times as part of his job as an EAT INC consultant saving dying restaurants while his only true love is Defriese University basketball.

Four towns have allowed Mclean to try on a new personality in each one so she can conceal the shame of who she truly is. As dad tries to save Luna Blue, she wants to end their rolling stone existence and stay in Lakeview as she observes her neighbor Dave Wade the genius trying to pretend to be an average IQ geek.

Although mindful of the author’s Along for the Ride, Mclean makes the tale work as she brings angst with her anger towards her parents, her shame over the public humiliation of their split that makes her the divorce kid and her need to no longer be a rolling stone as she wants to gather the moss of belonging in high school. The support cast at Jackson High School, the Luna Blue and Lakeview enhance the story line targeting middle school of a teenager trying to finally move on passed the end of her previously perfect life.

Harriet Klausner

Murder She Wrote: Skating on Thin Ice-Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

Murder She Wrote: Skating on Thin Ice
Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Obsidian, Apr 5 2011, $22.95
ISBN: 9780451232342

In Cabot Cove, Maine, Olympic Gold medalist Bruce Devlin trains promising figure skating pair Christine Allen and Russian Alexei Olshansky. Christine does not like either male as her coach is a demanding perfectionist who rejects anything less than the best; her pompous partner believes he is Russia’s gift to the American female population. Still at the Cabot Cove Ice Arena she endures both as they are her platform to success in skating pair competition.

However, accidents begin to occur with a frequency that makes local Dr. Seth Hazlitt feel they are deliberate. Soon afterward Alexei is murdered and another skater Jeremy is hammered into a coma. Sheriff Mort Metzger and novelist Jessica Fletcher investigate Skating on Thin Ice.

After the mostly recent road tour (see A Slaying in Savannah, Madison Avenue Shoot, Queen Jewels and Nashville Noir), Jessica returns home to Cabot Cove where she investigates the Alexei homicide and related felonies. Her being back in Maine is a two edged sword as that locale has been the prime place for the myriad of books and the TV series, but also brings a deja vu feel to the plot. Still this is an engaging whodunit in which readers will never look at a Zamboni in the same way.

Harriet Klausner

Baby Bootcamp-Mallory Kane

Baby Bootcamp
Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue, May 3 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373695423

In Freedom, Texas Corps Security and Investigations undercover operative Matteo Soarez sits calmly in The Talk of the Town Café while protecting State Governor Lila Lockhart from an assassin. Matt also seeks information leading to identifying who the culprit is.

His two biggest problems with the surveillance is the café owner is eight months pregnant Faith Scott and her cherry pie. A war veteran who has seen the worst of humanity, she makes him dream of family, fences and five female babysitters. She feels the same way about him, but refuses to fall for another drifter after Rory Stockett, father of her unborn. However, when her ex starts to bully her, Matt intervenes. As they fall in love, he realizes someone wants both of them dead; the unborn is collateral damage.

This exhilarating romantic suspense hooks readers from the onset as Matt begins to know first hand the patrons of the café. He makes the story line work as he struggles to stay the character of a drifter construction laborer who falls in love with a woman about to give birth and wants the mother and child in his life. Fans and matt will hope the lead female has faith in her heart as Mallory Kane provides a wonderful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Kiss-Red Garnier

The Last Kiss
Red Garnier
Heat, May 3 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780451233134

Ben Newcastle knows he is dying from cardiac arrest following the car accident. He has one thought as he holds a locket; he wishes he made the last Kiss with his beloved Emma forever.

One year, eight months and seven days have passed since Emma Wilkins’ knew her life ended when her beloved Ben died. In a Texas bar, Ben’s best friend Carter Bates begins to bring Emma back to life, but also angers an already frustrated Ben watching his beloved from beyond. She asks Carter the “pirate” to spank her while Ben her “prince” vows to return somehow. When Ben makes a Faustian deal, he comes back to San Antone and Emma now has two men she desires. However, Ben owes the devil.

The Last Kiss is an engaging erotic romantic fantasy starring two strong males and a somewhat weaker female although some of her issues are grief. Ben is an intriguing character as he refuses to move on and in fact chooses to move back. Carter is a solid caring person while Emma is more an extension of the two men lusting and loving her. Fans will enjoy this strange exciting triangle.

Harriet Klausner

Extremis-Steve White, Charles E. Gannon

Steve White, Charles E. Gannon
Baen, May 3 2011, $24.00
ISBN: 9781439134337

The telepathic Arduans fled their galaxy as their sun went nova. They traveled for centuries until they reached their destination Bellerophon. However, they are unhappy to find a sentient race recently colonized the planet. Still after what they have been through to reach their new home, the Arduans believing they are supreme as the only sentient race see the humans as a minor irritant.

Adding to their manifest destiny belief is the feebleness of human existence. Whereas the humans live one short life as telepathic mutes, Arduans live numerous lives while recalling each. The warrior caste wants to cleanse the orb and the rest of the galaxy using stolen technology from humans and their allies (Orions, Ophiuchi and Gorm) of these nothing species while Ankaht the scientist-philosopher tries to find a peaceful solution to benefit both species as well the indigenous population.

The latest entry (co-authored by Charles E. Gannon) in Steve White’s Starfire saga collaborating with David Weber (see The Stars at War) and Shirley Meier (see Exodus) is a terrific military science fiction that is at its best during the non-combat scenes. The battles are entertaining, but it is the philosophical debate on belief systems, species profiling and ethics especially from the alien perspective that make for a powerful timely thriller with applications in our society.

Harriet Klausner

Witches of East End-Melissa de la Cruz

Witches of East End
Melissa de la Cruz
Hyperion, Jun 21 2011, $23.99
ISBN 9781401323905

North Hampton is almost as difficult to find as Brigadoon as maps fail to locate the hamlet. Across from the town is abandoned Gardiners Island where Fair Haven has not been occupied for decades until now.

Nineteen year old Freya Beauchamp works as a bartender thanks to her license which dates her as twenty-two. She met Bran Gardiner due to a dress strap snapping and now they are engaged. However, though she loves Bran, she is in love with his brother Killian. Like her older sister Ingrid the librarian; and their mother Joanna, Freya is a witch. Due to the messy Massachusetts massacre from a few centuries ago, The White Council has placed strict limitations on magic usage, but the immortal Beauchamp females are recently leaking magic. The townsfolk feel fortunate as things seem to go their way until incidents turn ugly and supernatural beasts arrive from beyond while humans starting with a girl drinking a Freya’ special cocktail vanished.

Filled with delightful twists and the strong establishment that witchcraft and other paranormal beings exist, this is a superb bewitching thriller. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action, but it is the three Witches of East End who make this a wonderful supernatural tale.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jacob’s Return-Annette Blair

Jacob’s Return
Annette Blair
Sinful Moments Press, Apr 8 2011, $15.95
ISBN: 9781897562857

In 1881 Jacob Sauder left his Lancaster County Amish community following the funeral of his mother when his brother Simon informed him that the former’s fiancée Rachel wanted out of their engagement. Despondent Jacob moved away and Rachel married Simon.

After four years away he returns home a widower accompanied by his two years old twins Emma and Aaron whose mother died giving birth to them. He prays his family will welcome and love them though he sinned. Also Jacob knows it will be hard to see Rachel with Simon. His brother greets him with scorn telling him to leave as Simon is to be ordained a deacon. Soon after the return, Jacob and Rachel learn how devious Simon tricked both of them, but she must adhere to her vows even though her husband abuses her. Unable to remain idly on the sidelines while Simon’s abuse intensifies, Jacob confronts his sibling.

This reprint of a 1999 historical romance is an entertaining tale of redemption as the Amish society provides a strong backdrop to the tale of two rival brothers and the good woman between them. The story line is character driven with each key player having faults and flaws that make them seem real. Readers will enjoy this late nineteenth century Amish family drama as shunning the sinners competes with redeeming the sinners for the souls of Bishop Zook’s community.

Harriet Klausner

Vestal Virgin-Suzanne Tyrpak

Vestal Virgin
Suzanne Tyrpak
CreateSpace, Mar 6 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9781460943144

In ancient Rome, Vestal Virgins are selected when a girl is a preadolescent. At the temple they pledge to remain a virgin for the next three decades to properly serve the Gods. However, Vestal Virgins have rights other women do not as they own land and money. Most remain at the temple when their time as deity servants end because at forty they have no place else to go and know no other life.

Emperor Nero claims he is a god who can do anything he wants. Nero executes Marcus for treasonous acts including allegedly an assassination plot against the ruler in spite of his father being a senator. Nero summoned the traitor’s sister Elissa Rubria Honoria a Vestal Virgin to watch the execution. Despondent and irate, she vows vengeance. She loses her faith when her sister Flavia is violated and friends who she trusted turn out to be enemies who betray her.

Occurring during the reign of Nero (circa AD 63-64), the Vestal Virgin is a strong ancient Roman tale with a deep look at the pagan religions and the political scenario of a lunatic sitting on the throne. However, it is Elissa the Vestal Virgin who holds the story line together with her vendetta. Historical fiction readers will relish this powerful thriller that brings vividly to the armchair audience first century Rome.

Harriet Klausner

Sparrow Road -Sheila O'Connor

Sparrow Road
Sheila O'Connor
Putnam, May 12 2011, $16.99
ISBN: 9780399254581

Without an explanation, her mom Molly takes Raine with her as they move for the summer from Milwaukee to an artist retreat Sparrow Road overlooking Lake Michigan. Raine is upset that they are leaving beloved family especially Grandpa Mac behind while unsure why her mom apparently quit her job to take a position as cook and housekeeper.

She wonders about the relationship between her mother and the Sparrow Road caretaker Viktor, who greets her with strict RULES about no noise before 5:00 PM and leave the artists alone among others; and why her mother (and seemingly the other adults) never allows her to be alone. Diego the artist encourages her to write down her questions, which he says will help her figure out the answers. However, like all youngsters she begins to meet the other eccentric residents on Sparrow Road. Josie tells her about the orphanage that was once here. Other artists encourage her to open herself up to beauty, which she does somewhat, but still ponders about her mom and the “Iceberg” owner.

This is a charming relationship drama as mother and daughter love each other, but are frustrated with one another as well. Upper elementary school children will relish walking Sparrow Road with Raine as their guide; as she has so many questions in which answers lead to more questions.

Harriet Klausner

High Stakes Seduction-Lori Wilde

High Stakes Seduction
Lori Wilde
Harlequin Blaze, Apr 19 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373796144

Someone has stolen top secret US Navy Documents. The prime suspect is Keith Barksdale as the US Navy civilian employee allegedly hacked into Top Secret files just before they were encrypted. Office of Naval Intelligence security officer Lieutenant Adam Mancuso is assigned surveillance and protection of Barksdale’s former girlfriend Yoga instructor Eva St. George, who may be in danger due to her previous relationship.

Adam almost has a heart attack when staking out Eva’s San Diego apartment when he watches her through a telescope perform yoga exercises naked. He knows to keep his distance and use his upper brain, but he cannot as all his blood is flowing within his lower head. When they meet, she feels strongly she must stay away from the hunk as her choice of men has been pitiful, but cannot.

Who would have believed that yoga could lead to a straight arrow having a boner bigger than Catalina? The lead couple is terrific as she calls him her voyeur and he dubs her his exhibitionist. The Barksdale inquiry is also well written, but serves as a matchmaker as this heater belongs to the Wilde lead pair.

Harriet Klausner

Truth and Dare-Candace Havens

Truth and Dare
Candace Havens
Harlequin Blaze, Apr 19 2011, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373796175

Two decades ago Randall abandoned his family in Phosphor County. He never came home. Now the Phosphor County Sheriff informs Randall’s son that his father was murdered twenty years ago with his bones just found by hikers in a shallow grave. Stonegate Investigative Agency Forensic anthropologist Dr. Patience McGee offers to investigate the homicide. However, the victim’s son Cade wants the case to remain closed while the rancher’s grandmother allows Patience to stay at her B&B.

Cade refuses to assist Patience but admires her spunk while she thinks he is a hunk. Unable to stay on the sidelines after her dare, Cade joins Patience as she works his father’s cold case homicide. Meanwhile as they go from attraction to lust to love, someone wants to prevent case solved.

The third “Dare” SIA tale (see Take me If You Dare and See Who Dares, Wins) is an exhilarating investigative romance as the cold case murder of his father brings the lead couple together. The story line is fast-paced while the inquiry upsets local sensitivities. Although a subplot involving her kidnapped brother Jeremy is a distractor, fans will enjoy this entertaining whodunit romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes-Marcus Sakey

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, Jun 9 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780525952114

He awakens on a beach with no one around wearing no clothing. The man realizes he has no idea who he is though he knows he nearly drowned. Nearby he finds a car. Inside is a California license for a Daniel Hayes with his picture on it. He wonders how he who apparently lives in Los Angeles ended up in coastal Maine.

Daniel knows the truth lies in Southern California though he feels a niggling of remorse that he cannot fathom why. He heads across the continent as glimpses of his pre-amnesia life flash by in his mind. Soon Daniel learns he is a screenwriter whose TV star soap opera wife died in a vehicular homicide. The cops believe he killed his spouse while someone is stalking him.

This dark thriller grips the reader from the moment the amnesia victim awakens on a deserted New England beach and never slows down until the final exhilarating climax. Daniel is terrific as he evades police and a hunter while trying to rewire his brain as the replay button is too slowly coming into focus. Set aside time, readers will find it difficult to put aside The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes as Marcus Sakey provides a fresh exhilarating spin to the amnesiac in peril theme.

Harriet Klausner

The Undertakers: The Rise of the Corpses-Ty Drago

The Undertakers: The Rise of the Corpses
Ty Drago
Sourcebooks, Apr 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402247859

After getting over the shock of observing his walking rotting neighbor Ernie “Dead Man” Pratt and John Towers Middle School Assistant Principal Titlebaum and some teachers turn into zombies, twelve years old Will Ritter struggles with controlling his instinct for flight and fright instead of fight. Kids like him recruit Will as a member of The Undertakers, a dedicated unit of non-adults whose mission is to fight zombies.

Joining the youth squad means your previous way of life no longer exists as adults do not have the ability to see zombies. The teen and preadolescent Undertakers like Will vow to clean the world of the Zombie manifestation starting with their home town.

This is an engaging fast-paced tale from the moment the talking smelly Pratt puts his hand on Will and never slows down as the young warriors learn the key questions in life is not can I have Pop Tarts for breakfast or how to comb one's hair, but can you see the living dead and how do you kill a dead person? With nods to Wild in the Streets (zombie style) and Zombieland, middle school students will enjoy Will and the Undertakers mission to save the world as readers will agree with the book’s quoting an anonymous person that “Children make the best heroes.”

Harriet Klausner

The Disunited States of America-Harry Turtledove

The Disunited States of America
Harry Turtledove
Tor, Apr 26 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780765328243

Time Traders laterally travel from our realm to other timelines to sell slightly better products than the locals make. Each Time Trader knows that when one is a Crosstime Traffic trader they must never display too much technological superiority as blending in with the more backwoods natives is the key to success.

Recent high school graduate Justin Monroe comes from a family of Time Traders. Currently he and Time Trader Randolph Brooks are in a version of the United States that is not united and in which states constantly are at war with one another. He looks forward to going home to start college as his gut tells him this trip seems more dangerous than any he has been on.

From Southern California, Beckie Royer accompanies her Gran and "Uncle" Luke as they head to Elizabeth, Virginia to sell assault rifles to African-American rebels. With the country of Virginia on the brink of a racial civil war, neighboring country to the north Ohio sends a deadly virus into their nation that could only come from a Crosstime Traveler. As they are quarantined while people die from the deadly biological attack Beckie meets Justin and Randolph

This reprint of the fourth Crosstime Traffic book is a superb alternate history science fiction tale that grips the young adult audience from the moment that Justin is trapped and never let's go until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced, but makes a strong condemnation of racism and war with the fractured disunited States. Beckie is a terrific protagonist who provides insight into her world with little interwoven tidbits like no one in Ohio or Virginia messes with someone carrying a passport from the superpower California. Justin is also a fine character as he tries to hide his origin while wondering who from his timeline broke the law. THE DISUNITED STATES OF AMERICA is another winner from Harry Turtledove.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sherry and Narcotics-Nina-Marie Gardner

Sherry and Narcotics
Nina-Marie Gardner
Future Fiction London, May 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9780982792827

From a wealthy Boston Brahmin family, Mary Cartwright has enjoyed the galas associated with the art world. Now in her late thirties, she lives in London having recently earned a Masters in creative writing that has led to a job at an online essay firm. She also is an alcoholic who intermittently attends AA sessions and needs the equivalent with the men she chooses.

After reading her on line profile, Jake Potter contacts Mary. Though he is married with a child, they exchange emails. She leaves London to be near Jake in Manchester. However, she is a stranger in a strange city and though close to her Jake, he belongs to another woman and a child. She is depressed and all alone.

The key to Sherry’s self destructive addictive behavior is the cold cities unwelcome to a stranger (echoing the Doors Tune People Are Strange), as London and Manchester (and indirectly Boston) come across as cold lonely cement jails for people without family or friends. Sherry has no social network beyond an occasional AA meeting and her fantasy. Not an easy read as the reader feels the gloom and doom while anticipating the crash. Mindful of Preminger’s movie The Man with the Golden Arm starring Sinatra based on Nelson Algren’s novel, Nina-Marie Gardner provides a profound but grim look at urban isolation even with the web’s social networks.

Harriet Klausner

The Promise of Love-Kate Douglas, Jamie Denton, Erin McCarthy, Kathy Love, Sylvia Day, Lori Foster

The Promise of Love
Kate Douglas, Jamie Denton, Erin McCarthy, Kathy Love, Sylvia Day, Lori Foster
Berkley, Jun 7 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780425241073

“Shelter From the Storm” by Lori Foster. Roy and his parents rescue abused child Sabrina; years later she no longer wants Roy as a big brother.

“Take Me Home” by Erin McCarthy. Pregnant Sara returns to her BFF Travis for comfort.

“Razor’s Edge” by Sylvia Day. Deputy marshal Jack takes care of his late best friend’s widow Rachel and her eight year old son though she wants intimacy with him and he cannot stop the blood flow to his lower head.

“Midnight Rendezvous” by Jamie Denton. Leaving New York for New Orleans playwright Burnett suffers from writer’s block until his landlady Maya takes a naked midnight swim.

The “Dime Store Cowboy” by Kate Douglas. New York editor Mark quits his position to accept a job on a Colorado dude ranch where he meets Betsy Mae.

“Life in the Past Lane” by Kathy Love. His editor sends Rocco to cover his high school reunion in Beals Point, a town he vowed to never go back to, but soon re-meets Franny.

Although there is little room for deep character development, the authors do a marvelous job of contributing six fun short novellas.

Harriet Klausner

Too Rich for a Bride-Mona Hodgson

Too Rich for a Bride
Mona Hodgson
WaterBrook, May 17 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9780307458926

In 1896 the oldest of the Sinclair sisters, Ida has just completed business school in Portland, Maine. However, when Adjunct Professor Mr. Ditmer who she respected makes a proposition that upsets Ida, she joins her sisters Kat and Nell in Cripple Creek, Colorado (see Two Bride Too Many). However unlike her siblings, Ida does not want to find a husband.

Using her business education degree, she teams up with businesswoman Mollie O'Bryan in spite of hearing rumors of her mentor’s amoral business ethics that the newcomers believes is petty gender jealousy. Ida meets itinerant preacher iceman Tucker Raines who tries to save his ailing father’s business and makes friends with people who can help him or his family with their plight. To Ida, attorney Colin Wagner is her perfect match so why does she keep thinking of Tucker.

This is a wonderful inspirational historical tale that reminds readers of Carlyle’s Clothing theory of man as God sees passed the outer garments to the heart and soul inside the person. Mollie and the stock exchange she joins (breaking the gender barrier) were real and add a strong sense of time and place to a delightful late nineteenth century novel. Readers will enjoy the business and life lessons that Ida learns in Cripple Creek as the romantic subplot enhances her chance at restitution with God and his local flock, and moral redemption.

Harriet Klausner

Indelible-Kristen Heitzmann

Kristen Heitzmann
WaterBrook, May 3 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9781400073108

In Redford, Colorado high country outfitter Trevor McDaniel rescues two year old Cody from a yearling mountain lion cub. Cody’s father Aaron plays for the Rockies while his mother Paige hates the family freak, the toddler’s grateful Aunt Natalie Reeves is a sculptor. Natalie and Trevor (and his partner Paul) meet at her gallery where she offers a thank you sculpture to the men. She and Trevor are attracted to one another.

An unknown person begins sending Trevor photos of children in danger. He becomes concerned that his maniacal secret admirer may harm Natalie as he does not conceal how much she means to him. With Redford Police Chief Jonah Westfall at his side, Trevor tries to track down the psychopath who targets the helpless.

The return to Redford (see Indivisible) is a terrific tale of two flawed people who turns potential weaknesses into strengths. Due to a tragedy Trevor turned his grief into a search and rescue volunteer while Natalie has a disability that she has used to become a talented sculptor. Although the villain’s motive is presented somewhat late, fans will relish the coupling of two people who see the fortitude and courage in their beloved.

Harriet Klausner

A Conflict of Interest-Adam Mitzner

A Conflict of Interest
Adam Mitzner
Gallery, May 17 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439157510

In New York, thirtyish criminal defense lawyer Alex Miller works long hours but feels it is worth the reward. He is the Cromwell Altman’s youngest partner, has a beloved wife Elizabeth who understands his hours and a beautiful daughter who he adores.

At his father’s funeral in Florida, Alex meets the family friend legendary Michael Ohlig. The affluent Ohlig retains Alex as his firm’s attorney. The client explains that his boutique brokerage firm is accused of selling worthless stock in a startup company that Ohlig allegedly knew would fail. Although the evidence says otherwise, Alex believes Michael is innocent so he throws even more time into the defense as Elizabeth becomes irritated with his fully ignoring their child and her while spending all his time with beautiful senior associate, Abby Sloane.

This is a powerful character driven thriller as Alex ignores A Conflict of Interests that he acknowledges may taint his belief in Michael’s innocence, but obsessively needs to know the truth about his family. The story line is fast-paced with a profound focus on Michael’s prime relationships with his wife and their daughter, his parents, his client, his associate, and the firm. With stunning twists Adam Mitzner provides an exciting legal thriller with a close in person look at a fixated attorney.

Harriet Klausner

Internal Affairs-Jes Battis

Internal Affairs
Jes Battis
Ace, May 31 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020454

The Occult Special Investigators (Tess, Derrick, Lucian and Miles) head to the morgue to claim the corpse of a boy found on a nearby beach. The lad may not be human and almost definitely is not dead.

At the morgue, a demon attacks the four agents. The unit subdues the adversary capturing adult demon Basuram. They take him and the not dead boy who is the child Ru to OSI headquarters. Basuram demands they hand Ru over to him, as the High Court of the Ferid directed him to bring back the boy to face criminal charges though the demon admits he does not know what they are. However Earth is considered sanctuary so Tess, backed by her three teammates refuses to hand over Ru without further information. As she and her partners, investigate the claims Tess begins to uncover information about her own still cloudy heritage.

The latest occult special investigator Tess Corday urban fantasy (see A Flash of Hex and Inhuman Resources) is a terrific thriller as the heroine struggles with balancing her personal life with the demands of 24/7 on call duty. The story line is loaded with action from start to finish while the heroine and readers begin to learn more about whom (perhaps what is the better descriptor) Tess Corday is; while she and her teammates struggle with being in the middle of a demon fight.

Harriet Klausner

As You Wish-Gabi Stevens

As You Wish
Gabi Stevens
Tor, Apr 26 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780765365040

In Arcani, Regina Scott has done well for herself in spite of the fact her mother is ashamed of her lack of wizardry skills. Reggie is fine with being a Groundling although her childhood was tough as her parents tossed galas to showcase her lack of talent and sent her to an Arcani School where she was placed in special education for the gift-less. There she met her two best friends Tommy and Joy; who though Arcani have special needs.

She opened up The Star Bright Bakery in Del Mar, California after graduating from a non Arcani university and hired Tommy and Joy as her bakers. However, on her twenty-seventh birthday, the three fairy godmothers (Aunts Lily, Hyacinth and Rose) inform Reggie she is the newest godmother; not a good thing when you lack talent and when the authorities have a woman hunt for godmothers (see The Wish List for why). However, she suddenly has a different type of power while the Council is aware of her being chosen. Finally she meets Nate and Jonathan, who seem to want her.

Although fundamentally this book is Reggie’s magical coming out show with Luc the villain in pursuit, Tommy and Joy steal the stage as two Arcani with Down’s Syndrome unaware they use magic to make special pastry. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Reggie is caught in the middle of the Godmother revolt. Fans will enjoy this strong urban fantasy with a romantic subplot and a strong message involving intellectual and development disabilities as Gabi Stevens (like the author I have an IDD offspring) makes a strong case for support to the Best Buddies program.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Story of Beautiful Girl-Rachel Simon

Story of Beautiful Girl
Rachel Simon
Grand Central, May 4 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446574464

In 1968 at the Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, developmentally disabled white female Lynnie and deaf African-American male Homan meet. They become friends although the abusive staff keeps the “inmates” apart and the pair has a communication issue. Lynnie and Homan escape, which enables her to give birth outside the brutal institution.

Knowing the school will hunt them down they leave their newborn with caring Widow Martha Zimmer who provided them with shelter on her farm. The school catches Lynnie, but Homan flees. For the next four decades, the two though separate thrive on their short time together while Martha decides what to do with the baby entrusted in her care.

This is a passionate character driven cautionary tale at a time when leaders propose cuts to health care reminding readers of how society locked away in institutions those with disorders as a cheap way to ignore those who need some encouragement and support to be independent. Readers will not have a dry eye as Homan named for homing pigeons and Lynnie expect to one day meet again and see their offspring and the kind widow who took them and their baby in.

Harriet Klausner

Purgatory Chasm-Steve Ulfelder

Purgatory Chasm
Steve Ulfelder
Minotaur, May 10, $23.99
ISBN: 9780312672928

In Framingham, Massachusetts auto mechanic Conway Sax detests insufferable Tander Phigg, but the man belongs to the Alcoholics Anonymous Barnburner group. The Barnburners saved his life by sobering him up so Conway vowed to repay them whenever he can.

Thus when the pig Phigg asks Conway to retrieve his 1980 Mercedes from New Hampshire Das Motorenwerk garage that has possessed his vintage auto for eighteen months, Sax reluctantly agrees. However, the seemingly simple request turns convoluted when someone at the garage knocks him out and later he learns someone killed Tander. The police suspect Sax of the murder as he is an ex con who has been fingered for being the last person seen with the deceased. Conway has two missions to resolve: first prove his innocence and second get the vehicle.

Loaded with twists and spins, Purgatory Chasm is an exciting action-packed amateur sleuth mystery starring a fascinating flawed individual. Conway makes the tale work as a person in trouble who investigates the murder while also planning to repo the car. His past is nicely interwoven into the strong plot so that readers understand why he feels obligated to the Barnburner group.

Harriet Klausner

Purgatory Chasm-Steve Ulfelder

Purgatory Chasm
Steve Ulfelder
Minotaur, May 10, $23.99
ISBN: 9780312672928

In Framingham, Massachusetts auto mechanic Conway Sax detests insufferable Tander Phigg, but the man belongs to the Alcoholics Anonymous Barnburner group. The Barnburners saved his life by sobering him up so Conway vowed to repay them whenever he can.

Thus when the pig Phigg asks Conway to retrieve his 1980 Mercedes from New Hampshire Das Motorenwerk garage that has possessed his vintage auto for eighteen months, Sax reluctantly agrees. However, the seemingly simple request turns convoluted when someone at the garage knocks him out and later he learns someone killed Tander. The police suspect Sax of the murder as he is an ex con who has been fingered for being the last person seen with the deceased. Conway has two missions to resolve: first prove his innocence and second get the vehicle.

Loaded with twists and spins, Purgatory Chasm is an exciting action-packed amateur sleuth mystery starring a fascinating flawed individual. Conway makes the tale work as a person in trouble who investigates the murder while also planning to repo the car. His past is nicely interwoven into the strong plot so that readers understand why he feels obligated to the Barnburner group.

Harriet Klausner

Felicity's Gate-Julian Cole

Felicity's Gate
Julian Cole
Minotaur, May 10 2011
ISBN: 9780312585921

An unknown culprit kills artist Jane Wragge with a juicer in her home near York Cemetery. York Police Chief Inspector Sam Rounder, who has a weight problem that does not limit him from doing field work, leads the homicide investigation. The victim’s lover Moses Mundy has vanished so instead of just being a person of interest, he is the prime suspect.

Moses hires Sam’s brother Rick a private investigator to look into the violent associates from his past who he believes killed Jane. Rick conceals his client from his sibling while Sam, estranged from his wife, begins to fall in love with Jane after reading her diary that he hid from his investigative team.

With a nod to the Preminger movie Laura, Felicity’s Gate is a fantastic whodunit that has the reader wondering what is going to happen next. Fast-paced, the siblings separately investigate the murder of Jane Wragge in which Rick looks at his client’s previous associates while Sam depends on the dead woman’s diary for clues. The climax is plausible and in fairness well done, but the end is not quite as powerful as the two paths getting there. Still readers will toast the Rounder brothers and want more of their cases from Julian Cole (see The Amateur Historian).

Harriet Klausner

The Beholder-Connie Hall

The Beholder
Connie Hall
Harlequin Nocturne, Apr 19 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618590

A serial killing shapeshifter begins killing the residents of Brayville. Empath Nina Rainwater, who can speak with anyone living or dead, meets lion shapeshifter Kane Van Cleave. She senses that he knows and hides the identity of this predatory homicidal gleaner.

Kane believes he knows the identity of the deranged shifter killing people, but also fears Nina does too. He abducts Nina to keep her from revealing what she knows to the clan and to learn what that is. Nina realizes the insane shapeshifter who survives by sucking the life of others has to be Kane’s estranged brother, Ethan. They team up in search of Ethan while someone wants to prevent the duo from finding his sibling.

The latest Nightwalkers urban fantasy romance (see The Guardian for Nina’s sister Fala’s tale) is a wonderful tale made fresh by a villainous gleaner whose sustenance is other beings’ life force. Fast-paced from the moment Nina and Kane meet as each distrusts the other but self disdainfully desire their “opponent”. Fans will relish the hunt for a shapeshifting serial killer in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Stalker-Jenna Kernan

Ghost Stalker
Jenna Kernan
Harlequin Nocturne, May 19 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373618583

Nagi the ghost ruler knows the prophecy of the still unborn twins who will one day defeat him. He wants to prevent the siblings from being born so he sends his minion of ghosts to attack Skinwalker Nicholas Chien. They injure the wolf shapeshifter.

Nick needs medical assistance so he turns to Jessie Healey the Niyanoka Dreamwalker. She has pledged to kill his kind as they threaten humanity that she protects. However, the healer in Jessie or perhaps her heart will not allow her to kill Nick; besides which they need one another to battle the growing deadly threat led by Nagi. Nick and Jessie are attracted to one another, but both know any action on their feelings is taboo by each of their respective sides.

The second Trackers paranormal romance (see Dream Stalkers) is a terrific thriller starring two likable heroes who are natural enemies in love. Nagi is a fabulous fully developed supernatural villain whose threat is palatable. The Native American mythology provides a strong base as Jessie and Nick team up to fight Nagi and their “betraying” hearts.

Harriet Klausner

Mind Storm-K.M. Ruiz

Mind Storm
K.M. Ruiz
Dunne, May 10 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312673178

Two and a half centuries have passed since the global nuclear war eradicated much of the population. The planet has not recovered from the radiation battering. However, one thing remains the same from the pre war; a small group of wealthy “registered” as the five generations of throwback purebred humanity World Court rules over the Stryker force psions who possess psi skills.

The human Serca Syndicate enlists psions like Threnody Corwin, whose telekinetic touch emits electricity. However, she is unaware that Lucas Serca is one of her kind as is his warhounds. While he hopes to free the psions and save the unregistered purebreds, the affluent begin the countdown to their escape from a dying planet by traveling to Mars.

The first tale of a post-apocalyptic duology, Mind Storm is an exhilarating science fiction thriller. As a rebellion breaks out, the purebred affluent World Court after decades of enslaving the psions and other “gene-trash” plan their planetary escape while leaving behind the remnants of mankind to die. Although the story line never digs deep into the mindset of any of the prime three groups of survivors as blood and guts flow in extraordinary amounts, fans who enjoy gory military science fiction in a future dying earth setting will want to read Mind Storm.

Harriet Klausner

Korval’s Gate-Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Korval’s Gate
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, May 3 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781439134399

Plan B. As part of the Liaden rulers’ covert war against Clan Korval, the Department of the Interior hunts the heir Val Con yos’Phelium who once was a DOI Agent of Change killing machine until he met his beloved lifemate former mercenary hybrid Miri Robertson. They try to forge an alliance between his clan and her mother’s Clan Erob at a time the Yxtrang military attacks. At the same time his desperate cousin Shan yos’Galan and his lifemate Priscilla believe time has run out so they deploy Plan B.

I Dare: Fleeing the DOI hunters, Val Con and Miri have been separated. Meanwhile his cousin Shan and Priscilla search for him because they believe this is the only chance the DOI assault will have on lan Korval as the Liaden rulers offer another cousin of Val, Pat Rin yos’Phelium, leadership of the clan if he allies with them.

Newcomers to the Liaden Universe will be better suited reading the books preceding Plan B, especially Carpe Diem, which ends where Plan B begins; I Dare follows immediately after. Both reprinted tales are entertaining outer space adventures with the recurring theme of the evil empire trying to destroy the most dangerous clans so they can succeed in their plan for domination. The heroes are fully developed while Pat will prove to have depth beyond being a shallow cousin. This is an enjoyable omnibus reprint.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World

The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World
Jennifer Baggett, Amanda Pressner, Holly C. Corbett
Harper, Apr 26 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061689079

As the three friends were making it up the Manhattan media ladder, each began to question whether this is what they want from life. With thirty beckoning, they quit their jobs and leave their boyfriends behind in New York to embark on an around the world in one year tour though they know the cost to their careers. The three writers rotate chapters as they travel in South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The trek is not all kumbayah camaraderie though they depend on each other. Well written, the fascination in the memoir is the maturing from the early hedonistic fling in Brazil to the later poignancy of Kenya.

Harriet Klausner

The Civilized World: A Novel in Stories-Susi Wyss

The Civilized World: A Novel in Stories
Susi Wyss
Holt, Mar 29 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780805093629

In "Monday Born", twins Adjoa and Kojo left Ghana as migrant workers in the Ivory Coast in order to save as much as they can so they could come home to open a hair salon. By "The Precious Brother Salon, Kojo wants to make money fast so he considers a robbery of Adjoa's American employer, health worker Janice. Starring in "Names" and "Waiting for Solomon" is Foreign Service wife Ophelia, whose marriage lacks passion. Comfort’s husband Kwaku died six months ago as she flies from Accra to DC to see her son, his wife and their baby in “A Modern African Woman”. "Calculations of Risk" focuses on Comfort's white daughter-in-law who struggles with race and sex. Adjoa, Janice and Comfort meet in “There Are No Accidents" as each understands the impact of children. These nine tales focus strongly on the convergence of different people in various African countries (and one entry in DC). All the stories are strong as the female stars makes for a powerful look at relationships whose heart is Africa.

Harriet Klausner

Defiant-Kris Kennedy

Kris Kennedy
Pocket, Apr 26 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781439195901

In 1215 English King John directs his fearless knight Jamie Lost to kidnap exiled priest Father Peter. Without questioning the task having sworn his allegiance to his sire, Jamie, who knows a rabbi hides Father Peter, sets off to bring the priest and his documents to his king.

A decade ago Eva fled England. Now she is back seeking Father Peter to keep him safe just like he did to her and her companion Roger. Jamie catches Eva stealing, but she escapes to his amusement. When a third party abducts Father Peter; Eva and Jamie team up in pursuit of these kidnappers. Though neither trusts the other, they are attracted to one another even as the danger mounts while a civil war seems imminent.

Although this is a medieval romance, the incredibly fast-pace and the witty teasing exchanges between the lead couple are rarely part of the sub-genre; in fact the verbal war brings a modern feel that is counterbalanced cleverly by Kris Kennedy including plenty of early thirteenth century history. Action-packed with fascinating escapes from danger, readers will be spellbound by the exciting adventures of Jamie and Eva.

Harriet Klausner

Mystery Writers of American presents the Rich and the Dead

Mystery Writers of American presents the Rich and the Dead
Edited by Nelson DeMille
Grand Central, May 2 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780446555876

The premise of this anthology is that the ultra Rich can obtain anything they want but also can be the target of others who envy their affluence. The all new twenty contributions are well written and though adhere to the general theme provide a wide diversity. Harry Bosch stars in Michael Connelly's terrific "Blood Washes Off while Connecticut widower Detective Meigs visits vacationing in dreaded Key West in Roberta Isleib's "The Itinerary”. Cholly the odious poison pen columnist learns what being a victim is in Ted Bell’s “The Pirate of Palm Beach”. Trip sees Dizz but this is no high school reunion in the “Precipice” by Daniel J. Hale and Frank Cook's "The Gift" will remind readers of O’Henry. The strong collection closes with a wonderful tale starring the queen of Greenwich Village, “Daphne, Unrequited” and her former husband (written by Angela Zeman). With writers like Harley Jane Kozak, Lee Child and S.J. Rozan, readers will enjoy this fine compilation by the MWA.

The Scarab Path-Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Scarab Path
Adrian Tchaikovsky
PYR, Apr 26 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 9781616143619

The war between the aggressor Wasp Empire and the Collegium of the other states is over with a cease fire. Both sides have been devastated with many dead and a horde of wounded veterans needing assistance, but lacking funding to care for the discarded soldiers.

Cheerwell “Che” Maker struggles with the horrors of war though she was successful. Her Post Traumatic Disorder leaves her haunted and feeling displaced even at her home as her Aptness Daratyon has disappeared and assumed dead turning her into an Inapt Beetle Kinden. Her Uncle Sten, assigns her to escort academics to the bizarre city of Khanaphes, way in the beyond east as a diplomat of sorts. At the same time the Wasp Empress Seda begins her evil scheme to consolidate the power she lost during the stalemate and expand on that. Seda sends assassins to murder the one person who knows her entire plot, her former spymaster Thalric. He flees to Nem Desert where the arcane archaic city of Khanaphes lies.

The Scarab Path, the fifth Shadows of the Apt, moves away somewhat from the overt epic military fantasy of the previous four entries though their remains some large scale blood and gore battles, but is more introspective. The audience sees close and up front what the war cost even the heroes especially Che, the focus of this super story line as she evolves into an Inapt. Loaded once again yet sort of reloaded, fans will Salute the Dark opening of will relish Adrian Tchaikovsky’s new arc as an unsettled peace has come to the Lowlands.

Harriet Klausner

The Alchemist in the Shadows-Pierre Pevel

The Alchemist in the Shadows
Pierre Pevel
PYR, Apr 26 2011, $16.00
ISBN 9781616143657

French Cardinal Richelieu knows his country’s greatest threat does not come from other nations though he does not ignore their danger. The biggest risk to France’s current sovereignty is the Black Claw, a Spanish-based secret group functioning with immunity out of bigger European kingdoms.

When Italian spy La Donna offers information on a plot against the throne; the Captain La Fargue, leader of the Cardinal’s Blades, accepts her terms in the name of His Excellency. She offers to bring their lethal enemy the Alchemist from out of the shadows that conceal his deadly activities and La Donna insists she can provide details. In exchange for information France needs to keep weak King Louis XIII safe, His Excellency must grant her immunity from arrest and especially protect her from the Black Claw assassins.

The second Blades historical fantasy is a terrific blending of political intrigue in early seventeenth century France with draconic magic. The cast is powerful as each of the Blades has different personalities while their enemies especially the shadowy Alchemist seems like a perfect match. Although it helps to have read The Cardinal's Blades to better understand Pierre Pevel’s paranormal Paris, readers will enjoy this exhilarating twisting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Haven-Joel Shepherd

Joel Shepherd
PYR, Apr 26 2011, $16.00
ISBN 9781616143633

Regent Balthaar Arosh plans to return the Bacosh back to what it was over two centuries ago before the alien serrin of Saalshen ended the ancient system. His forces conquer Enora and Rhodaan, partially because the local populace is divided.

The Lenayin king is dead while most of the army is humiliated by how the kingdom behaved as their neighbors suffered great losses and atrocities. Unable to remain quietly in exile, Sashandra Lenayin returns to lead those soldiers ready to fight against the Regent. This divides the country in the same way the city of Tracato was split as Sasha’s brothers supported by the Verenthane join the side of the Regent.

The final battle that will determine the fate of the Bacosh is in the human border city of Jahnd in the Saalshen. However, for Sasha and her allies to repel the conquerors depends on Ilduur sending its Steel into the fight. Most of the Ilduur rejects joining the war as the mountains protect them from the battles to the north. A desperate Sasha becomes the Lenay warlord as she heads south to plead with the Ilduur to send troops.

The final A Trial of Blood and Steel political military fantasy is a super climax to a powerful saga (see Petrador and Tracato). The story line is fast-paced and loaded with action as the armies of both sides meet for an epic battle that will determine the future of the Bacosh. The irony of this timely saga is the humans support the Regent because he is one of their species though his objective will return them to an age of enslavement while opposing the enlightened serrin who have brought prosperity and freedoms. Besides the nearby Ipshaal River flowing with blood, this thriller is a thought provoking tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Coffins of Little Hope-Timothy Schaffert

The Coffins of Little Hope
Timothy Schaffert
Unbridled, May 3 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9781609530402

In Nebraska octogenarian widow Essie Myles writes the obituary column for her family-owned County Paragraph; as she has done for over seven decades under the byline S Myles. In fact she uses the same 1953 typewriter as she did years ago when she wrote her first obit, an essay on her late mom who died giving birth to her.

Essie notices how the press seems to be going nonstop and learns a New York publishing firm contracted the paper among other sources to print the final book in a popular YA series. Essie also learns from a neighbor Daisy that a photographer abducted the woman’s daughter Lenore. Essie investigates, but believes no crime occurred as she concludes Lenore went willingly with her boyfriend even as others accuse the mother of killing the daughter. However, the novel is leaked and the missing person report goes viral as Essie’s small town becomes the center of international news for fifteen minutes of distorted infamy.

This is a lay back satire that lampoons the country’s fascination with scandalous news; even when there is none to extrapolate as done with the disappearance of Lenore. The story line is so mellow, it is an anti-action tale not intended for everyone. Subtly mocking the voracious need for negative news, Timothy Schaffert provides a scathing attack on how we invent news made even more powerful by the gentle “much ado about nothing” Nebraska cast counter weighed by the international gotcha feeding frenzy.

Harriet Klausner

Fade to Blue-Julie Carobini

Fade to Blue
Julie Carobini
B&H, May 15 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780805448740

Suz Mitchell and her four year old son Jeremiah settle in Otter Bay, California as the single mom obtains a position at Hearst Castle and moves in with her older brother Gage who is engaged to Callie (see A Shore Thing). Her plan is for her and her child to start fresh while she prays her ex Len, who lingers behind bars, returns to God.

Also employed at the castle is her former boyfriend Seth Russo. She is surprised that feelings she thought dead prove they were only hibernating as she is attracted to Seth. He reciprocates and wants second chance with Suz. However, she knows Jeremiah must come first as the lad needs to adapt to his father in jail and he and his mom relocating. Complicating matters is Len is free from prison and coming for his family as if nothing happened as he knows his former wife only sees the best in people.

Fade to Blue is an insightful contemporary Christian Otter Bay relationship drama. The cast makes the tale work especially Suz-Q whose belief in the Lord will soon be tested. With a profound underlying message that you can pray for others but like that proverbial horse not make them drink the water of faith. Readers will appreciate this strong drama.

Harriet Klausner

Rivals in the Tudor Court-D. L. Bogdan

Rivals in the Tudor Court
D. L. Bogdan
Kensington, May 1 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780758242006

In 1547 Thomas Howard sits in the Tower anticipating execution. He blames his mess on his wife Elizabeth, his mistress Bess Holland, his dolt of a daughter Mary, and especially his hothead son Henry. He reflects back to when Henry VII took the throne as his family’s fortune rose and fell fast due to royal wars. In 1495, he marries Henry’s sister-in-law Princess Anne though he is bit appalled that she is taller than him. However, they have several children but they all die young.

In 1503 Henry VIII sits on the throne. In 1509, Elizabeth Stafford arrives at court as a Lady-in-Waiting. Elizabeth looks forward to becoming a Neville, but instead her father arranges a marriage to widow Thomas. She is loyal to her spouse even when he takes Bess Holland as a mistress. However, as Elizabeth is Queen Catherine’s favorite, Thomas tries to return the family to the prominence of that short loved loftiness before the Battle of Bosworth in 1483 pushes forward Anne Boleyn to the king. At the same time Bess wants wealth and land even if it means destroying her lover.

The prequel to the Secrets of the Tudor Court is an engaging look at the era through the rotating perspectives of Thomas, Elizabeth, and Bess. Though none of the prime trio fully takes charge of the story line leaving it somewhat rudderless, Tudor era fiction fans will find fascinating the viewpoints of lesser players in a period in which it did backstabbing intrigue lead to the Tower.

Harriet Klausner

Married on Mondays-HoneyB

Married on Mondays
Grand Central, Apr 28 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446582339

In Crème City, The Montgomery sisters (Foxy, Victoria and Deja) believe strongly in the mantra of the Three Musketeers. They run a bakery together, assist their lawyer-husbands at the legal firm, and operate swinging Crème Fantasyland at night.

Foxy feels trapped between loving two men, her spouse and her former fiancé. Victoria allows her libido to run her life as any male or female who brings her to climax is her love of the moment. Finally, kick butt Deja is a dominatrix in every controlling sense of the word as she must be the Dom in charge at work, at fun, and at relationships. With marital issues and the nervy police chief Rain demanding Foxy sleep with him or face jail time, the siblings recall what their single daddy Mason told them: fight as a team watching each other’s back.

This is an engaging erotica starring three females who have their act together as they face life’s curveballs by swinging for the fences. Rotating perspectives mostly between the sisters, but also somewhat Foxy’s husband Winton (the other two mates never step to the plate), readers will enjoy HoneyB’s urging female power encouraging women as the stronger sex to be.

Harriet Klausner

My Foolish Heart-Susan May Warren

My Foolish Heart
Susan May Warren
Tyndale, Apr 18 2011, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414334820

In Deep Haven, Issy Presley has become an agoraphobic ever since the accident killed her mother and left her father in a nursing home. To venture out of her house requires an act of extreme courage on her part as the thought leads to anxiety and the first step to panic attacks. Issy also serendipitously hosts “Miss Foolish Heart” radio show that provides listeners with advice on love and romance though she has never been in a relationship and probably never will being predominantly house ridden.

After a tour in Iraq, Caleb Knight moves to Deep Haven concealing his post traumatic stress disorder anxieties and hoping to obtain a coaching position. When the two neighbors meet for the first time, they are attracted to one another, but their respective inner demons make it a less than an amiable encounter. He calls Miss Foolish heart seeking advice. Over the radio waves the pair connects as they fall in love. However, in person their relationship has a problem as his love is for Miss Foolish Heart.

Although a very deep relationship drama that looks discerningly at anxiety and panic attacks and PTSD, the story line sets up an ironic triangle between, Issy, Caleb and Miss Foolish Heart;. The story line is character driven as the lead couple struggles to overcome their emotional disabilities with this delightful return to Deep Haven (see Perfect Match and Tying the Knot). This is a charming romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Bee Balm Murders-Cynthia Riggs

The Bee Balm Murders
Cynthia Riggs
Minotaur, Apr 26 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312581794

Martha’s Vineyard beekeeper Sean McBride suggests to entrepreneur Orion Nanopoulos he rent a room from the former’s boss nonagenarian Victoria Trumbull. Orion, who heads a fiber optic cable project, takes an attic room on Victoria’s West Tisbury home.

A corpse is found where Orion’s crew is laying down the cable. When a body is found in the trench where they are laying the cable; Orion recognizes the victim as Brooklyn construction mogul and project investor Angelo Vulpone. The deceased’s family, learning that Victoria has a reputation for solving mysteries, hires the feisty senior citizen to investigate Angelo’s murder. She begins her inquiry quickly learning a lot of people could make a lot of money with Vulpone dead.

This is a terrific whodunit especially when the action is on Martha’s Vineyard, as the dynamic Victoria does her thing while providing readers with a charming tour of the island. Part of the fun is watching the money investment crowd go in for the kill when Orion loses his prime backer as this group has no respect for the dead. With nine previous cases solved by marvelous Martha (see Touch-Me-Not), she has proven to be a super professional sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Sati-Christopher Pike

Christopher Pike
Tor, Mar 29 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780765331373

In the Arizona desert, blonde, blue-eyed Sati hitches a ride. Sati is very choosy with who she picks up as she sits by the side of Highway 10 West. Thus she selects long haul trucker Michael Winters, who has major personal issues.

She informs the skeptical Michael that she is God. Though he questions her sanity, Michael is unsure why but he takes the beautiful female to his Los Angeles apartment. He scornfully demands miracles, but she ignores him as she does not give sight to the blind, etc. Instead, others who meet her begin to change in her presence including his estranged family. She hosts meetings in which refreshments are served. However, when the self proclaimed deity is murdered, all who were in her circle of light realize what she did for them is bring a new hope.

This is a reprint of a delightful 1980s parable. Michael the cynic tells the tale of Sati who brings a deliverance and atonement to those who meet her. Readers of all ages will feel the light of redemption by all in Sati’s presence whether she was God or an enlightened person. Michael and others know she made a difference.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage-Kieran Kramer

Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage
Kieran Kramer
St. Martin’s, Apr 26 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312374037

In London Hodgepodge Bookshop owner Jilly Jones loves her store and even her aptly named for its weather Dreare Street. On the other hand she loathes the institution of marriage having tried that despicable union before.

Her new neighbor, Captain Stephen Arrow is one of Regent’s targeted Impossible Bachelors. He inherited a place near her shop and wants to sell it, but only a fool would buy a house on unlucky Dreare Street; besides his unwelcome family horde resides inside the abode. As an attorney arrives ready to evict the street’s occupants over the lack of payments, Stephen admits to himself he enjoys baiting feisty Jilly who uses her witty arsenal to pickle his brain. He realizes he wants her with his heart and to win the misanthrope he must perform the impossible like learning the Dreare secrets wrapped inside the fog of the street.

This intelligent Impossible Bachelors tale (see Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right) is a wonderful enchanting Regency romance starring two witty combatants at gender war and an eccentric support cast. The story line is fast-paced except for a short moment when the runaway wife’s spouse arrives as he is more dreare than the street. Readers will enjoy this fun entry as humor and wit combine for a fine historical; that is not raining meatballs or pickles (See the wonderful children’s tales by Judi and Ron Barrett).

Harriet Klausner

The Wreckage-Michael Robotham

The Wreckage
Michael Robotham
Little, Brown, Jun 16 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780316126403

Foreign correspondent Luca Terracini knows the rules of survivability in a war zone; recently affirmed by the bombing of the chain hotels in Baghdad. He gets around the country without being imbedded due to his being an Iraqi-American and having a terrific local entourage starting with his driver Jamal. However, he has broken his prime rule of cowardice ever since his Nicola died in a suicide bombing.

Currently Luca is investigating the bank bombings with the eighteenth for the year being the Zewiya Branch of Al Rafadain Bank. His theory is these incidents are thefts on a massive scale rather than terrorism or insurgency. As Luca follows the money trail, he encounters UN representative Daniela Garner, who apparently is the expert on the bank robberies. Her appearance affirms his belief about the robberies.

At the same time in London, international banker Richard North disappears. Governments, mobsters, and financial institutions employ the best to locate him. The North incident ties back to an amazed Luca who is thrown out of Iraq by Iraqis who he believes were pressured by American authorities; apparently the west wants the missing money to remain secret.

Based on real bank robberies in Iraq, the IG report of nine billion dollars in Reconstruction money unaccounted for and a UN chief claiming drug money saved the finance industry during the recent meltdown; The Wreckage is an exhilarating financial thriller. The story line is fast-paced as the hero follows the money in which Baghdad, London and several other finance centers connect. Readers will relish this solid tale while wondering about the underlying plausibility as this cannot have happened yet facts are stranger than fiction.

Harriet Klausner

Untamed Highlander-Donna Grant

Untamed Highlander
Donna Grant
St. Martin’s, Apr 26 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312533472

In 1603 immortal warrior Hayden Campbell accompanied by the MacLeod clan invade Cairn Toul Mountain as part of their mop up operation to destroy the remaining Druid supporters of the evil dead Deidre. They are greeted by the eerie sight of dead Druids and one severely injured female.

They take Isla to the MacLeod castle to heal her from Deirdre’s magical assault although Hayden wants to kill her as he has other Druid droughs who sold out to the devil like Deidre did. However, this time Hayden has a personal issue as he wants Isla, but she also is the devil’s minion or as he prays is she?

The latest Dark Sword historical romantic fantasy (see Dangerous Highlander and Wicked Highlander) is a terrific tale of love and redemption. Isla knows what she wants, but Hayden is torn between the soul he sees in her eyes and his centuries old vow of destroying any Drough; Deirdre’s evil shadow makes him hesitant to love her but his heart makes him hesitant to kill her. Fast-paced, fans will relish the Grant Druidic mythology as the deep lead couple and the strong supporting cast makes this a delightful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Burning Skies-Caris Roane

Burning Skies
Caris Roane
St. Martin’s, Apr 26 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312533724

Endelle the nine millennia Supreme High Administrator of Second Earth keeps getting into the head of former Warrior of the Blood Marcus Amargi who quit the Guardians and left for Earth following the death of his sister Helena. However, though the vampire tells his ex boss to go home, Endelle appears in person on his bike and his Washington State home informing him that he owes her a favor and that ascended immortal Havily Morgan is not sleeping well because she sexually fantasizes making love with Marcus.

Marcus knows what Havily feels as he covets her blood. They are also in the throes of the breh-hedden mate bonding that she desires and he loathes for fear the woman meant for him could die. She wants nothing less than his full capitulation to her. At the same time, Marcus battles his need to surrender to his mate, brutal death vampire Eldon Crace wants Havily’s special blood his lethal way.

The second Guardians of Ascension vampire romantic thriller (see Ascension) is a terrific tale as the audience continues to learn more about the vampire civil war that is played out in combat and politics. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing as he cannot move on pass the violent death of his sibling while though sympathetic she cannot accept anything less than his whole heart and soul. Readers will enjoy the paranormal romance, but it is the background Roane mythology that makes for a powerful entry.

Harriet Klausner

Pitch Dark-Steven Sidor

Pitch Dark
Steven Sidor
St. Martin’s, Apr 26 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312354145

In Northern Minnesota, Wyatt and Opal Larkin own and manage a small motel in trouble as the new Super 8 chain is just off the highway and being Christmas Eve in a remote part of the state, business is nonexistent. The two Larkin's always look back to two decades ago when two psychopaths entered a restaurant and started shooting. They wounded Wyatt and pregnant Opal.

Their nineteen year old son Adam runs out of gas. Slightly older Vera Coffey picks him up. She conceals from her passenger that she stole the Tartarus Stone compass to hell from Dr. Horus Whiteside. He sends his horrific horde the Pitch after her. At the motel, Vera joins the Larkin family in what probably will prove a one way ticket to hell for the foursome.

Fast paced with a frozen tundra atmosphere enhancing a sense of imminent doom, readers will enjoy this frightful horror thriller. Although readers will anticipate what next as the plot has few surprises, the suspenseful story line still grips the audience as High Noon with evil comes to a small motel in Northern Minnesota.

Harriet Klausner

Future Imperfect-K. Ryer Breese

Future Imperfect
K. Ryer Breese
Dunne, Apr 26 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780312641511

Whenever seventeen years old Ade Patience is knocked out, he sees the future. He becomes addicted to his skill as he does all sorts of stunts to land unconscious. His family is concerned though his mother believes her son is part of the coming Rapture. His friends are increasingly distant as they are uncomfortable with his visions.

Two years ago Ade first saw the girl he loves Vauxhall, but has finally met her in person. However, Vauxhall conceals a secret from Ade as she sees things from her sex partners’ past during intimacy. Like her new beau, she is addicted to her power. Finally Ade must deal with her boyfriend Jimi who he has seen what becomes of his rival.

This is an intriguing thriller with a strong look at self inflicted abuse. Ade and Vauxhall are odd but fascinating characters as their relationship is as far from the norm as an outlier can be. Although Ade’s constant concussing behavior should have caused much more long term physical damage (as quarterbacks and boxers know) and consequently led to a strait jacket by family and school intervening, readers will enjoy his banging his head against solid objects and Vauxhall.

Harriet Klausner

The Season of Passage--Christopher Pike

The Season of Passage
Christopher Pike
Tor, Mar 29 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765331298

In 1996, an unmanned probe landed on Mars. The vessel sent back incredible data including unexplained gigantic footprints. The ship abruptly went dead.

In 2000 the Russian sent vessel the Lenin goes to Mars, but also suddenly loses contact with earth. In 2002 an American crew, lands on Mars. They are greeted by a shocker as a cosmonaut remains alive inside freezing Lenin while the ship orbits the planet. The Russian has no pulse and responds in an odd manner with a strange permanent grin to questions from the Americans including medical officer Dr. Lauren Wagner. The Russian escorts the Americans to the surface. While her older sister in on the Angry Red Planet, thirteen year old Jennifer writes a story about Princess Chaneen, an Asuiran goddess, who has ties to what her sibling encounters on Mars. The Martian expedition is disastrous with Lauren and one other astronaut coming home while Jennifer is dead and interred yet Chaneen apparently lives.

This is a reprint of an early 1990 thriller that deftly crosses science fiction and fantasy. The story line rotates between the two subplots until the Mars return leads to a confrontational convergence. With a sort of historiographical feel to the tale as a note points out that the novel is based on scientific knowledge of the 1970s, readers will relish Christopher Pike’s gripping suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Bride’s House-Sandra Dallas

The Bride’s House
Sandra Dallas
St. Martin’s, Apr 26 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312600167

In 1880, seventeen year old Nealie Bent comes to booming mining town Georgetown, Colorado. Two men are attracted to the newcomer, miner Charlie Dumas and engineer Will Spaulding. Nealie turns to Will. They have an affair, but when she becomes pregnant, he leaves.

Dependable Charlie marries Nealie and they live in the Bride’s House. When Nealie dies giving birth to Pearl, Charlie raises her as if he is her biological father. No suitor is good enough for his girl as Pearl becomes Charlie’s business partner. However when she falls in love with Frank Curry, he cannot let go of the only reminder he has of Nealie.

This is an engaging family epic as three generations of females starting with Nealie though the transition from one female lead to the next is smooth. Readers will enjoy staying at the charming Bride’s House where the hosts (Nealie, Pearl and her daughter Susan) have made into a warm home.
seem to repeat similar relationship tragedies as if it is part of their DNA imprint. The cast in each era is fully developed as they bring alive that period and make what occurs seem genuine. The Bride’s House reads more like three novellas
Harriet Klausner

The Illusion of Murder-Carol McCleary

The Illusion of Murder
Carol McCleary
Forge, Apr 12 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765322043

In 1889, Nellie Bly begins her quest circumnavigate the world in under eighty days. Two weeks into her quest, Bly is in Port Said, Egypt where she witnesses a homicide. Before the victim dies, he talks briefly to Bly.

She wonders if the deceased was English as she sets out to leave Egypt. Bly and her mostly British retinue continue the trek into Asia, but more murders follow. She begins to wonder if her aristocratic companions are the cause for the rash of homicides that plague her expedition and decides to use her journalist investigative skills to solve the murders.

Based on Nellie Bly’s true account of her Around the World in 72 Days, The Illusion of Murder is a terrific thriller as the intrepid journalist uses her investigative skills to try to solve homicides plaguing the adventure. Nellie makes her second historical whodunit (see The Alchemy of Murder) work. The sleuth reporter is brave but not a modern day super female warrior as part of her psyche remains anchored in the Victorian age. Readers will enjoy traveling the globe with Nellie as she ends up in one hot pot of stew after another while trying to break Phineas Fogg’s record as recorded by Jules Verne.

Harriet Klausner

Royal Pains, First Do No Harm-D.P. Lyle

Royal Pains, First Do No Harm
D.P. Lyle
Obsidian, Jun 7 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451234148

Dr. Hank Lawson worked in a major New York City hospital. Two severely ill patients arrived at the same time; he immediately treated the sicker person. That man survived, but he was unable to tend to the other person in time. Hank was fired and blackballed because the man who died was wealthy and a contributor to the hospital. Although Hank no longer could obtain a hospital position, he kept his medical license.

Dr. Lawson became a concierge doctor to the rich in the Hamptons. He makes house calls, holds their hands, and provides service like the old general physician of years ago. One of his favorite patients is Eleanor Parker Wentworth who is a down to earth person. She is giving her granddaughter Nicole an extravagant wedding. Dr. Lawson learns Nicole suffers from fugue incidents when she disappears and does not know where she is at. Hank locates her, but she has no idea who she is. Her blood contains a dangerous mix of chemicals, but she swears she only takes vitamins. Other patients show the same symptoms. They share one thing in common, but to prove it before someone dies makes Dr. Lawson go out on the limb again; his brother Evan, his girlfriend Jill and his P.A. Dixie has his back.

Hank remains hurt that he cannot practice the medicine he loves though his patients adore and respect him. Readers will admire and like him as he seems like a Dr. Welby with flaws including irritability. He is all heart as he cares about his patients, his and their families and his staff. Like Lee Goldberg, D.P. Lyle writes novels with TV tie-ins that are fun to read.

Harriet Klausner

Awaken the Highlander-Anita Clenney

Awaken the Highlander
Anita Clenney
Sourcebooks, May 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402251238

On her family estate near Albany, New York, Bree Kirkland opens a graveyard vault. Inside is Faelen who claims he belongs to an ancient Scottish warrior clan whose mission is to protect humanity from demons. He explains that Druan the demon incarcerated him back in 1860 in this tomb. Her clothing and her fighting spirit surprises him as he has no history of a female like her; his reaction matches his wearing a kilt stunning her.

Meanwhile Druan plans to release a virus to eradicate humanity. Based on his description of the enemy, Bree believes her former fiancé, who is acting strange, may be Druan. Faelen and Bree team up to prevent an extinction event from happening even as they fall in love, a taboo by his clan.

This is an engaging romantic urban fantasy as the twenty-first century feisty female stuns the highlander she has awakened with her wardrobe and attitude. The story line is fast-paced and filled with exciting twists. The couple’s reactions to each other make for an entertaining save the world thriller, as Bree and Faelen united by love take on the diabolical Druan the demon with the stake being the human race.

Harriet Klausner

The Legend of Michael-Lisa Renee Jones

The Legend of Michael
Lisa Renee Jones
Sourcebooks, May 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402251566

At Area 51, deploying the mission of top secret Project Zodius, the military inject alien DNA into two hundred specially selected special ops soldiers in order to turn them into super soldiers. They become a super race superior in every sense than the humans they were once a part of.

General Powell sends his daughter psychiatrist Cassandra to evaluate the GTECH for mental stability. She and Michael Taylor meet and instantly lifebond. However, Michael fears what their mating would do to his lifebond so he tries to keep her from joining him. Soon the GTECHS divide into two distinct enemy groups; the Zodius and the Renegades. Now Michael must keep his beloved safe from the nasty Zodius.

With a nod to Captain America, Lisa Renee Jones provides a great Area 51 romantic military fantasy. The action-packed story line grips the reader from the moment the lead couple meet in “The First Time Ever I saw Your Face” (by Ewan MacColl) moment and never slows down. Fans will enjoy the opening act of Project Zodius as the Super Soldiers split into two adversarial groups with one wanting to dominate the inferior humans and the other protect the inferior humans.

Harriet Klausner

Wickedly Charming-Kristine Grayson

Wickedly Charming
Kristine Grayson
Sourcebooks, May 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402248481

Prince Charming and Cinderella are divorced with the former owning and running a bookstore under the name of Dave Encanto. As a single dad he raises their two offspring far from the fairy tale happily ever after life of a royal in the Third Kingdom as the people blamed him for the split with Ella.

Also in exile from the Third Kingdom is Mellie who is upset with being stereotyped as evil because she happens to be a stepmother whose life was ruined by rumors of her abusing her stepdaughter Snow White. Angry with the injustice caused by those mean spirited Grimm brothers for her and her cohorts, she goes to a book fair to protest the lying portrayal of her and other stepmothers as malicious malevolent; she wants her Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight moment as the vampires have recently been redeemed. Mellie and Charming (along with his distrusting daughters) meet; he offers to help her write the true story of her and Snow White. Neither expected an attraction to spring up between them.

This is an amusing satirical take on images, public spins, and the publishing industry as Kristine Grayson provides a charming “fractured fairy tale” that the late Jay Ward would have enjoyed. Filled with jocularity, a clever romance, and an Imp of a child (and her sister) fearing the evil stepmother, fans will enjoy what happens following the happily ever after classic fairy tales; in this addition it does not guarantee a happy ending.

Harriet Klausner

City of the Snakes-Darren Shan

City of the Snakes
Darren Shan
Grand Central, Jun 2 2011, $21.99
ISBN: 9780446573474

The City has been ruled by the Cardinal, but with his death Capac Raimi became in charge with one difference from his late predecessor; he cannot be killed. Capac is not human; instead he is an Ayuamarcans created by The Cardinal abd capac is reanimated after each death. This is of little interest to Al Jeery, who is unconcerned with the blind Villac Inca priests living in the underground beneath the City though they control the Ayuamamcans. He has one interest to find and kill Bill Casey.

Bill killed the woman he wanted as well other people who meant something to Al. For a decade he lives for revenge. To draw Bill out, he dresses as the cold blooded killer Paucar Wami who happens to be his father and involved with the Incas. Al leads the gang that created the snakes that are part of the Inca’s magic. The plan is to create guerilla warfare in order to cause hostilities to force open warfare. When the City calms down, the Villac will be in control and take charge. Having dealt with Bill, Al can leave The City, but feels obligated defeat the Incas.

The third City thriller (see hell’s Horizon and Procession of the Dead) is an enjoyable but extremely dark and bloody fantasy as people use horrific power to create, destroy, and resurrect lives. Al is a reluctant hero who seeks redemption when he makes his mind up to move past revenge and takes on the puppeteers as he risks his life to try to liberate +The City.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Appetite for America-Stephen Fried

Appetite for America
Stephen Fried
Bantam, May 3 2011, $18.00
ISBN: 9780553383485

This terrific historical biography starts off with quite a hook when drunken cowboys in 1882 meet Fred Harvey at his Montezuma Hotel and after a drink with the English expatriate and midnight breakfast come away with awe while wondering “Who the hell is Fred Harvey?” Stephen Fried provides a deep answer to the question of the pioneering entrepreneur who established the restaurant chain concept with his eating out facilities by railroad stations. As America changed, Fred Harvey modified his innovative Harvey Houses concept to include restaurants at National Parks with the Grand Canyon being the jewel. Even after he died his revolutionary business model survived. Well written, besides the radical change to the American service industry, the biography also looks back at the rest of the Fred Harvey story from his roots in England to the end of his company in the twentieth century. Stephen Fried provides a super spotlight on a key business mogul who began the change from the industrial manufacturing base to the service industry.

Harriet Klausner

The Mermaid Garden-Santa Montefiore

The Mermaid Garden
Santa Montefiore
Touchstone, May 3 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781451624304

In 1966 in Tuscany, her mother dumps ten year old Floriana Farussi on her alcoholic father before leaving. Floriana falls in love with teenage Dante Bonfanti. He is amused by her élan for life. However as they grow up, each knows they are soulmates.

In 2009 in Devon, Marina and Grey Turner fear they will lose their Hotel Polzanze. They hire Argentine painter Rafa Santori to provide lessons to their guests. This proves successfully until Grey's miserable daughter Clementine arrives to the chagrin of her stepmother who knows her husband’s offspring mantra is misery loves miserable people. However, everyone has issues, which makes it unlikely that the artist and the daughter will connect in spite of being in love.

These two tales of young people in love at two locales over four decades apart deftly comingle into a cohesive entertaining story. Although straightforward in both eras, readers will feel they are walking the gardens of Tuscany and Devon accompanying the fully developed casts from both periods; as Santa Montefiore provides a wonderful warm character study of paradise found, lost and regained.

Harriet Klausner

Going Cowboy Crazy-Katie Lane

Going Cowboy Crazy
Katie Lane
Forever, May 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446582780

The poster child of conformist behavior, computer programmer Faith Aldridge recently learned she has a twin sister Hope living in Bramble, Texas. Wanting to meet her sibling, she shocks herself when she breaks out of her conformity mold to come to the small town. The locals assume Faith is Hope and the newcomer fails to rectify the mistake because she can hide behind her sister’s persona.

Faith as Hope meets her sister’s friend high school coach Slate Calhoun. He surprises her when he informs her she is not Hope who left town for Hollywood. Meanwhile the townsfolk try to match Hope and Slate. She meets Hope’s parents and considers leaving town, but Faith is in love with Slate. As Hope heads for home, Slate knows which sister feels right in his arms.

The eccentric secondary cast makes Going Cowboy Crazy a zany over the top of the Alamo Texas two-step romance. Although the Bramble brood interference is frequently amusing, this is a two edged sword as at times it can interfere and become annoying. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing while the third wheel hopefully gets her own tale.

Harriet Klausner

Face of Danger-

Face of Danger
Roxanne St. Claire
Forever, May 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446566575

Two Oscar winners are murdered by the Red Carpet serial killer. Viviana Angelino realizes she is a near dead ringer for the Best Actress favorite best actress front-runner, Cara Ferrari. Seeing an opportunity for her struggling Guardian Angelinos firm to gain a foothold, she offers her services as a double. Cara accepts but stipulates that Vivi fly to Nantucket on the actress’ private plane.

FBI agent Colton Lang is irate with the replacement. At Cara’s estate, someone attacks Vivi demanding where she hid the key. Angelino and Lang are bewildered by the assault, but more confusion will follow on the red carpet.

The latest Guardian Angelino romantic suspense thriller (See Edge of Sight and Shiver of Fear) is a tense tale of opposites who fight, fuss and fall in love. The fast-paced story line is loaded with danger and stunning twists as treachery makes the case that it is much more perilous and risky to the lives of the lead pair and others as well as to the respective hearts of Vivi and Colt. Fans will swear they can smell the cacciatore as Roxanne St. Claire provides a taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner